I was driving the wife and meatbally pre-K daughter around my old neighborhood the other day, stopping at my favorite Astoria destinations: Sweet Afton, Brooklyn Bagels, Pita Pan, The Bohemian Beer Garden, blaa blaa blaa. The munchies hit me like a ton of bricks and I was right across the street from Studio Square Beer Garden. I happen to wander into Five Napkin Burger (formerly Cup Restaurant) as the Slider Happy Hour sign struck my inner caveman with a bad case of the shakes and drools.
I spent 14 years living in LIC/Astoria beginning in 1995. My folks had sold the house I grew up in and fled, like so many other New Yorkers, to Florida’s Gold Coast. It became, and still feels like, my home. For two or three decades now, Astoria has been overun by Eurotrash cafes, where everyone is rolling deep in Benzes, BMWs and Range Rovers, incessantly smoking Marlboro Reds, and indulging in a massive overuse of hair product and Drakkar Noir. Among them, there is an unnatural obsession with image and name brand recognition. At the dime-a-dozen sidewalk cafes, you can often see a table of clowns sipping espresso in the morning, only to return from work in the evening, and see the same ones guzzling crap-ass Heinekens. The M.O. there is to collect rent money from suckers – no one actually holds down a real job.
For a long, long time, nightlife there consisted of nothing else but a sea of Ed Hardy-sporting Greeks, Croats, Serbs and the odd Albanian, all fist pumping to obscure, crappy, repetitive house jams. Few of them have any desire to intermingle. Thrown in for good measure, were a handful of trashy, old-man, Irish pubs – none that you would dare venture into – remnants of another time.